(Vegan) Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles

I had been holding on to the recipe for these cookies for some time. I was largely unaware of the possibilities of vegan baking until a dear friend, Dawn, took me to a local vegan bakery. I tried a number of goodies there and was gobsmacked by how moist and delicious everything was. I would never have guessed that none of it contained dairy or eggs. Dawn is herself a vegan and a big fan of yummy things, so I decided that I wanted to honor our friendship by making something for her. Plus, she’s a great guinea pig and has always been supportive of my baking experiments.
After vetting many recipes, I decided that Post Punk Kitchen’s Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles sounded promising, and printed out the recipe, intending to make them as a Christmas offering to Dawn. That would be Christmas 2011. I ended feeling overwhelmed with the holiday baking and never got around to them. Then sometime this fall, our group of girlfriends had a conversation about food (we have many conversations about food) and the subject of chili-infused chocolate came up; Dawn was most enthusiastic. So that sealed the deal; I had to make those cookies this Christmas. And so I did.
I cannot rave about these cookies enough. They were simple to make and did not require any unusual ingredients. No egg substitute or flax meal were necessary. I was worried that the cookies would be greasy with the amount of canola oil used; they weren’t.  I was worried that they would lose their crispness when stored; they didn’t. My non-vegan family loved them. Dawn loved them. Dawn’s husband loved them; he even emailed me a plea for help one day because he couldn’t stop eating them and was afraid she would return home from work to discover that they were all eaten.
The cookies are pleasingly chocolaty and have a depth of flavor that I really enjoyed.  I loved how the chocolate and cinnamon played off each other, and the slow burn of the cayenne. The texture is firm but there’s a nice chewiness in there too. Who knew a vegan cookie could be so satisfying?

Bourbon Balls

I made these this holiday season when I found myself with an abundance of bourbon — not a spirit I would ordinarily choose to imbibe. I thought they’d be a fun, boozy treat for my friends — drunken cake balls, if you will. Plus, as my friend Allison pointed out, “bourbon balllllllllls” is fun to say.

The recipe posted on Joy of Baking was really simple to make, although dipping the balls in the melted coating chocolate (I used Guittard Dark Chocolate A’Peels because I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to temper chocolate) was a little tricky and gave me nasty Johnson and Wales Chocolates and Confections class flashbacks. I drizzled them with melted Ghiradelli White Chocolate Baking Bar, which I thought made them look pretty fancy.

Peeps loved them and couldn’t stop popping them — did I mention my friends like boozy treats? I thought they were delicate and moist and all those good things, but I quickly tired of the bourbon-iness. I think I would prefer rum balls. Maybe next Christmas I will have too much rum on hand and will need to find a way to use it up. I really can’t imagine being in that situation but you never know!

Baked Doughnuts

Last Christmas (2011 that is), I received a set of doughnut pans from my boys. Although we used them a few times last winter, I hadn’t pulled them out yet this year. So, at the urging of my younger child, I made doughnuts the first Saturday of the new year. It also happened to be the morning the boys were to attend a special Saturday session for their respective A.P. English classes so I thought it would be a nice incentive for them to get out of bed on what might otherwise be a kind of a bummer of a Saturday (I mean, who wants to go to school on a Saturday morning to take a practice A.P. test?).  This meant I had to get up at 6 am to make them, but isn’t that what motherhood’s all about?

I made plain Baked Doughnuts with Easy Vanilla Glaze and rainbow sprinkles. I had previous tried a different King Arthur Flour baked doughnut recipe (as well as recipes from the back of the doughnut pan box) and thought this new recipe was much better than the previous ones I’d used. The texture was less spongy/soggy and they didn’t stale as quickly, and the glaze coated and set up very nicely. My boys tall and taller loved them as well.

Fresh out of the oven!
Depanned and cooling…
Mixing the glaze
Sweet, sticky, sprinkly goodness!

My next doughnut experiment will be baked chocolate doughnuts… still deliberating between vanilla and chocolate glaze. 😉

Happy 2013!

First off, Happy New Year to all. I hope you survived the holiday season with waistline and sanity intact.
One of my goals for 2013 is to resume regular posting (and baking), so here goes. Our house is still recovering from the glut of baked goodies (ours and gifts from others) that we acquired in the past couple of weeks so I haven’t baked anything new this week. I do have a backlog of projects to post though, so that’s not a problem!
Our family’s Christmas Eve food tradition is a dinner of baked ziti, Caesar salad, and Texas Toast, with something rich and chocolatey for dessert after church service. My younger son commented that he was having a hankering for cake so I decided to make the Triple Layer Chocolate Birthday Cake from one of my favorite food blogs, Eat, Live, Run. Jenna Weber is the creator of Eat, Live, Run, and in the past year, it has become my go-to when I need ideas for something to make (savory and sweet). My Pinterest boards are easily 80% Eat, Live, Run repins!
Back to the cake. I used cow’s milk (rather than almond milk) in the cake and vanilla extract rather than vanilla bean in the cake and frosting. I was slightly concerned baking the three layers, since I only have two straight-sided 9-inch cake pans; I used an old supermarket-quality (i.e. sloped-sided) 9-inch pan for the third layer. The batter mixed up great and the layers rose nicely and were pretty level when they came out of the pans. I did put greased and floured parchment rounds on the bottom of each pan because I didn’t want any surprises when it was time to depan the layers. I tested them at the prescribed 40-minute mark and they seemed perfect — sides beginning to pull away, a few crumbs sticking to the toothpick — so I pulled them out then.
No incidents with making the ganache or the frosting… everything went painlessly and I managed to sneak in a 2-mile run while I was waiting for things to cool/set up. The whole cake came together beautifully and I used every last bit of the frosting, thus the sad solitary rosette on the top of the cake! In hindsight, perhaps I should’ve used a smaller tip to decorate, but I was going for speed at that point, and I rarely run out of frosting (most recipes make way too much) so it didn’t occur to me to go light.
The three layers create a MONSTER of a cake. Lift with your knees, peeps!!
Now — the eating of the cake. In hindsight, I’m thinking my layers were overbaked because the cake was a tad dry right off the bat. Next time, I would check them a bit earlier and/or brush the layers with a flavored simple syrup. My guys LOVED the frosting, but were just meh about the ganache between the layers; they couldn’t taste it. I only had enough ganache to do a fairly thin layer between the cake layers; it just didn’t stand up to the dryness of the cake itself. I think if there were more (and the cakes weren’t overbaked) it would have made more of an impact. Also, the cake really could’ve used more frosting (I have never, ever said those words before). The guys suggested that next time I make only two layers, replace the ganache layer with frosting and use the same or more frosting to ice the cake, so that’ll be my plan. I’ll let you know how it turns out!